Surrealpolitik: All Hallows' Eve

Author: Charles Walter Stansby Williams


Quick Summary

T.S. Eliot says this book is the heir to Chesterton's Man Who Was Thursday, which I discovered by reading Caserio's essay on G.K. Chesterton and the Terrorist God Outside Modernism, and which is why I bought this book. It is a provocative if somewhat tenuous comparison. Both have an antagonist who treads the line between god and devil, both have a supernatural element in a realist setting. But unlike Chesterton's book, this one hits you over the head with Christianity and is humorlessly earnest and overwrought. As a psychological study it does have some depth and while I found the style essentially off-putting, by the time I got to the middle I did want to keep reading just to find out what happens. I don't think we can call this surreal by any of my definitions, and it initially seems a stretch to call it a terrorism novel. But Caserio is insistent upon Simon Leclerc being a terrorist and this is where the themes do become interesting: the uncritical hypnotized masses, hypnotized by choice, the attempt to dominate the world by controlling minds, the way Leclerc removes meaning from words. Some useful themes and quotes. There are a few places where surrealism seems relevant: the description of Jonathan's painting of the city; Betty's travels in the netherworld where her mission comes to her as a matter of something akin to objective chance; and simply the whole idea that reality is larger and more mysterious than we normally and narrowly view it. There is also a reference to a snail's trail on page 138, bringing to mind the several slug references in The Science of a Single Cabbage.


There are 14 quotes currently associated with this book.

She was becoming strange to herself; her words, even her intonations, were foreign. In a foreign land she was speaking a foreign tongue; she spoke and did not know what she said. Her mouth was uttering its own habits, but the meaning of those habits was not her own. (page 13)
Tags: [Everyday Life, Literary/Poetic]
She could not bear to be only a terrifying dream. (page 14)
Tags: [Everyday Life, Disinformation, Literary/Poetic, Madness, Gaslighting]
The usual slight distinction between shape and hue seemed wholly to have vanished. Colour was more intensely image than it can usually manage to be, even in that art. A beam of wood painted amber was more than that; it was light which had become amber in order to become wood. (page 17)
Tags: [Surrealism, Hallucinogens, Realism, Literary/Poetic]
"I wasn't trying to paint his soul or anything: I just wanted to get him done well enough to please Betty's mother. And when I'd done it I stared at it and I thought: 'Either I don't know what he is or he doesn't know where he is.' But a fellow who's put it over all America and bits of England is likely to know where he is, I suppose, so I must just have got him completely wrong. It's odd, all the same. I generally manage to make something more or less definite. This man looks as if he were being frightfully definite and completely indefinite at the same moment -- an absolute master and a lost loony at once." (page 21)
Tags: [Terror, Literary/Poetic, Ambiguity]
The vagueness, the dreaming, the doubtful hanging-about are permitted only on the borders of intellectual life, and in this world they were rare. Neither angels not insects know them, but only bewildered man. (page 46)
Tags: [Literary/Poetic, Dreams, Ambiguity]
She tried to remember what she had been bidden, but she could not. That did not matter; in this blessed place it would be shown to her. She walked slowly up the platform, and as she went the whole air and appearance o the station changed. With every step she took a vibration passed through the light; the people about her became shadowy; her own consciousness of them was withdrawn. She moved in something of a trance, unaware of the quickening of the process of time, or rather of her passing through time...These were the precincts of felicity. (page 48)
Tags: [Surrealism, Literary/Poetic]
The Clerk sat and spoke...A curious flatness was in his voice. He was practicing and increasing this, denying accents and stresses to his speech. Wise readers of verse do their best to submit their voices to the verse, letting the words have their own proper value, and endeavour to leave to them their precise proportion and rhythm. The Clerk was going farther yet. He was removing meaning itself from the words...he turned, or sought to turn, words into mere vibrations. (page 62)
Tags: [Postmodernism, Terror, Literary/Poetic, Ambiguity]
Bety had been talking almost as if there had been two lives, each a kind of dream to the other. (page 78)
Tags: [Surrealism, Truth & Real, Literary/Poetic, Dreams]
She did not recognise captivity; she thought herself free. (page 80)
Tags: [Fascism, American Exceptionalism, Literary/Poetic, Gaslighting]
The world he could see from the window gaily mocked him with a promise of being an image of the painting... (page 84)
Tags: [Truth & Real, Postmodernism, Simulacra/Illusion, Literary/Poetic]
He knew that surprise does not become the magician, and is indeed apt to be fatal, for in that momentary loss of guard any attack upon the adept may succeed. (page 92)
Tags: [Activism, Surrealism's Promise, Literary/Poetic, Gaslighting]
They fled and escaped from actuality. Unknowingly, they spoke as he did, knowing; therefore they were his servants -- until they dissolved and were lost. (page 101)
Tags: [Postmodernism, Simulacra/Illusion, Literary/Poetic, Gaslighting]
"Must we always wait centuries, and always know we waited, and needn't have waited, and that it all took so long and was so dreadful?" (page 104)
Tags: [Everyday Life, Literary/Poetic, Ambiguity]
It was the nature of that world to produce not so much evil art as bad art. (page 149)
Tags: [Literary/Poetic, Ambiguity]